How man killed wife, fled and still evaded long life in prison

Joab Osiako was released after spending five years in custody

In Summary
  • The court was persuaded to find that a custodial sentence of two years would have been suitable and adequate herein.
  • This is since Joab was minding his own business sleeping when Leah hit him with a piece of wood.
A court in session
A court in session
Image: The Star

It would have been as good a time as any on the night of August 3, 2018, if someone had reminded Leah Penda Atemi that it was never a great idea to poke a bear - in this case, her husband.

Earlier that day, Leah had asked her 38-year-old  husband Joab Omunyaku Osiako for rent but she was not satisfied with the amount he gave, it was less.

This led to an argument during which Leah threatened to chase Joab from home.

Done with the word exchange, the man went to bed leaving Leah who was seemingly angry.

She would then take a piece of wood which was in the house, go to the bedroom and start hitting her husband.

After the second blow, the man woke up and after a short struggle he took the wood and hit his wife on the back of the head.

When he saw that she had fallen and started bleeding, Joab walked out and went to sleep at a lodging.

The next day he went to work as usual but when he passed by his wife's place of work in the evening, she was not in.

He hurried home curious of why she had not reported to work, only to find her lying where she had fallen the previous night.

Joab tried shaking her only to realise that she was already dead.

In what he would later describe as shock, he packed and went to a bar where he spent the night.

On August 5, 2018, he fled to Webuye to his sister where he found his brother-in-law Stephen Nikhisa.

On the same day back at home, neighbours started questioning Leah's absence and at around 4 pm, they went to the house and found her body.

They notified the area assistant chief who in turn called the police, the deceased was taken to a mortuary and investigations began.

A post-mortem would determine the cause of death as severe head injury secondary to blunt force trauma following an assault.

At Webuye, a day after Joab arrived, Nikhisa heard his story and tried to convince him to surrender to the authorities but he was adamant.

So in a natural move, the brother-in-law called the police on August 6 and informed them that Leah had been killed by her husband.

Still determined to escape the consequences of his actions, Joab moved to Lugulu where he was arrested by DCI officers.

He was arraigned at Vihiga High Court and charged with murder.

On September 21, 2023, Joab entered into a plea agreement and was convicted of manslaughter and urged the court to sentence him to seven years imprisonment.

On its part, the state recommended a 10-year jail term sentence.

In his mitigation, Joab took a turn around from his prayer of a lenient custodial sentence and urged the court for a non-custodial sentence.

He stated that he was a first offender and that several people including his father depended on him.

Joab also urged this court to consider the period he spent in remand while his trial was ongoing.

The prosecution requested the court to strike a balance between being lenient and doing justice to Leah as her life was lost in unwarranted circumstances.

It also urged the court to consider that Joab was easily provoked and also his custodial sentence recommendation when he entered into the plea agreement.

A Pre-Sentence Report presented to the court stated that the convict had expressed shock and remorse for having killed his wife and prayed for leniency.

His family, community and the Probation Officer also recommended that he be given a non-custodial sentence as he was a generally good and hard-working man.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Jacqueline Kamau said she had considered the facts of the case and Joab's mitigation and that the court was called upon to temper justice with leniency.

The court was persuaded to find that a custodial sentence of two years would have been suitable and adequate herein.

This is because Joab was minding his own business sleeping when Leah hit him with a piece of wood.

It observed that the man reacted after being provoked and did not appear to have wanted to cause his wife harm as was shown by the fact that he went to check on her at her place of work and her home.

The court also considered the time Joab had spent in custody awaiting his trial to be five years.

"Five years that he spent in custody while he was awaiting his trial was in the mind of this court sufficient retribution to the victim’s family and the community for having cut short the deceased’s life," the court documents dated October 31, read.

Judge Kamau noted that the court retained its discretion in its decision and was not bound by the proposals of the parties.

She sentenced Joab to two years imprisonment, running from October 31, 2023, but after factoring ithe time spent in jail,Joab was set free.

"However, as he has been in custody since August 6, 2018, when he was arrested for the offence herein, a period that this court took while computing his sentence, he has since completed his sentence," the court added.

"It is therefore hereby directed that the Accused person (Joab) be and is hereby released from custody forthwith unless he be held for any other lawful cause."

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